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Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial Advisory Board

Our nation owes a significant debt to veterans who have experienced serious injury while serving in the armed forces.

The VA’s Specially Adaptive Housing grant program allows veterans with significant service-connected disabilities to get help adapting their homes, but the program needs the expansion championed by Republican Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran.

Moran recently introduced legislation to expand the program to more veterans and better support them throughout their lifetimes. The legislation would double the maximum number of awarded grants from three to six per veteran, prioritize applications from seriously ill veterans, increase the maximum grant size and increase the number of applications the program will accept each year.

“This modernized and expanded grant program,” Moran said, “will allow veterans to utilize vital SAH grants in a way that best fit their needs — providing greater support and improving the quality of life for many of our nation’s veterans.”

Congress should endorse the proposal, which would increase the number of authorized applications per year from 30 to 120.

Nearly 2,000 veterans apply for the grants annually, a number that has tripled in the past decade, according to the Wounded Warrior Project. The increase in applicants is likely due to improved battlefield medicine that saves soldiers who would have died in past conflicts.

The program is available to veterans who have lost two limbs or more, or experienced an equivalent injury, like blindness or serious burns. Under current law, the grants may be up to $85,645 for building, remodeling or purchasing an adapted home. Grant funds may be used to build wheelchair ramps, add grab bars or handrails, replace doors, widen hallways and make other adaptations.

The weakness of the current program is it doesn’t serve veterans whose housing needs change over time. As veterans age, their health care needs will change. A veteran who currently walks with a prosthesis may require the use of a wheelchair in 20 years, which would require additional housing modifications.

Moran has named the legislation for retired Army Col. Paul Benne, a Spring Hill, Kan., native who became disabled after 23 years of service but had difficulty accessing supportive services to help modify his home. When Benne and his wife contacted Moran’s office for assistance navigating the process, Moran become aware of how limits placed on housing grants impacted veterans.

The legislation is a responsible step to ensure disabled veterans receive the support they need from a grateful nation.

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